Greece, Little Horn


The “little horn” is named in two visions. Is it the same figure in each case, or two different individuals? Daniel 7:7-8, 8:9-14.

The figure called the “little horn” figures prominently in Daniel’s visions, and it is explicitly named in the vision of the “fourth beast” and that of the “ram and goat.” It is reasonable to assume both visions refer to the same figure. The historical references in the first vision are enigmatic, in the second, they are explicit. The careful comparison of parallels between the two visions is vital.

But first, the interpreter must consider the earlier dream of Nebuchadnezzar from chapter 2. It provided the fourfold structure that informs the later visions. The Babylonian ruler saw a “great image” comprised of four sections, each composed of different materials. The first part was the head of “fine gold,” the second, the arms and breast of “silver,” and so on.

In the dream’s interpretation, Daniel left no doubt about the identity of the “head of gold” – “You, O Nebuchadnezzar, are the head of gold.” The information about the next two sections is brief, and that of the fourth kingdom is enigmatic:

  • And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, forasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things; and like iron that crushes all these, shall it break in pieces and crush. And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay… And in the days of those kings will the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass hereafter” – (Daniel 2:40-45).

If the same fourfold structure is reflected in the vision of the “four beasts from the sea,” then the “fourth beast” is identical to the fourth kingdom from the Babylonian king’s dream, the one composed “partly of iron, partly of clay.” And there are verbal links between the fourth entities of the two visions:

  • (Daniel 7:7-8) – “After this, I saw in the night-visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped the remnant with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”
  • (Daniel 7:21-27) – “Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast… I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most-High and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus, he said, the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces… But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most-High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”

The verbal links connect the visions, and the interpretation of the “fourth beast” provides more details than the earlier dream of Nebuchadnezzar. For example, in the earlier interpretation, the kingdom was given to “another people,” but in chapter 7, the kingdom is given to the “people of the saints of the Most-High.” In both visions, the fourth kingdom is characterized by “iron” and its ability to “break in pieces” and “trample” its victims.

[Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash]

Likewise, the vision of the “goat with the prominent horn” and its interpretation have verbal links to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and the vision of the “fourth beast from the sea”:

  • (Daniel 8:9-10) – “And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars, it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them.
  • (Daniel 8:21-25) – “And the goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. And as for that which was broken, in the place whereof four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences will stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power, and he shall destroy wonderfully and prosper and do his pleasure, and he will destroy the mighty ones and the saints. And through his policy he will cause craft to prosper in his hand, and he will magnify himself in his heart, and in their security, he will destroy many; he will also stand up against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand.

In the king’s dream, the fourth kingdom is compared to iron and noted for its ability to “break in pieces and subdue all things, and as iron that crushes all these shall it break in pieces and crush.” While we naturally assume this refers to its ability to subdue other nations, the passage does not say who or what it “crushes.” However, the object of this kingdom’s wrath is indicated at the end of the interpretation when God judges the “kingdom” in an ironic fashion:

  • The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will its sovereignty be left to another people; but it will break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms…and the stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold.”

Thus, in chapter 2, the fourth kingdom that “broke in pieces” and “trampled” targeted the group identified as “another people,” the same group that inherited the “kingdom that will not be destroyed.”

Likewise, in the visions of the “fourth beast” and the “ram and goat,” the “little horn” uses its “iron teeth” to “break in pieces” and “trample the remnant,” which is identified in both interpretations as the “saints of the Most-High” (“The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them”).

Just as the last kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was crushed by the stone cut from the mountain “without hands,” so the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” is “broken without hands.”

There are too many verbal parallels to be coincidental. The same four kingdoms portrayed in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar are represented by the “four beasts from the sea.” Likewise, the links between the “little horn” of chapter 7 and the “little horn” of chapter 8 are too close not to conclude that the same figure is pictured in both visions.

The angel Gabriel’s interpretation of the “goat with one prominent horn” is quite explicit. The “goat” represents Greece, and its great “horn” is its first great king who overthrew the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians.” That can only refer to Alexander the Great, and the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” came out of one of the four Greek kingdoms that succeeded his empire.

Thus, in the book of Daniel, there is only one “little horn” and all references to it refer to the same individual or entity.

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